Sep 20, 2016
Pop Perry; a Story of a Fourth Son
I think that even though my father wasn't there, in his death and in his memory, he has been a mentor to me in my manhood because my mom couldn't teach me how to be a man - Francis Capra
My father, my biological father, died when I was very young in a car accident on a slippery road in Phoenix Arizona. I was so young in fact I do not remember any interaction with him, nothing. My mother remarried after the death, and my name was changed without any afterthought on my part. I actually remember my mom asking me at the tender age of five if I was ok with having my named changed. Being five I had no idea what that meant but in a small town in the early seventies it was frowned upon for my parental units to have a different surname than their progeny; the die was cast.
My stepfather, Jackson, was a decent man. He was intelligent and a good provider. He loved my mother very much and tolerated me, I came with the package, and he was stuck with me. Frankly, I think, being the way he was raised, he did not connect to me as a son but as something he had to contend with. As the years wore on our relationship was a constant struggle between love and respect between the two of us and the only life lessons that were given to me were subjective to generalities. If it were not for my grandfather and two other really great men in my life I would more than likely be in prison instead of an apartment in Virginia writing this tale.
The First Meeting
This is the story of Vernon “Pop” Perry and how a man with one of the biggest hearts I have ever witnessed came into my life and saved it. If you read the post I did, you were introduced to my four lifelong friends one of which was Douglas Perry. I remember the first time I went to Doug’s house, it was a Saturday afternoon. We were going to go hang out at the mall and maybe see a movie; it’s what you did in the 80’s. That is the first time I met Pop, and it was glorious. Pop is not a super large man via height per se, but he is bigger than life when it comes to personality. Pop came over and shook my hand with a firm grip and smiled with that raspy smoker’s voice saying, “I have heard a great deal about you from Doug!” He then said, “we would love to have you over for dinner, Susan is an excellent cook, and we are having flank steak with noodles tonight.” I looked at Doug, and he shrugged his shoulders and told me he would love for me to come. There was nothing at home for me that night, typical of most nights actually. My parents were working, and I generally ate alone anyway so this, a family meal would be a nice change of pace.
When we got back from the mall and walked into the house I could smell the food in the kitchen, the aroma filled the whole casa and so began the grumbling process in expecting a great meal. The surprising thing was that the meal was good the company was exceptional. I don’t remember ever laughing as hard as I did that night over stupid jokes and amazing stories of where Pop and Susan had come from, how they met, and how they were going to bring Pop’s oldest to town soon. It was the first supper I had but not the last, I began to spend more time at the Perry’s and Megginson’s house than my own, and that was a good thing because when I was not with them, I was alone in an empty house.
He genuinely loves his three sons and would do just about anything for them. After a few dinners and many football games, I was brought into the family as part of the household and having no brothers or sisters growing up, it was pretty awesome to have a sense of belonging.
The first time I came to realize that I was not only Doug’s friend but a part of the family was the night that the two of borrowed Pop’s prized Mazda to go to see a play in Tempe. It was a beautiful automobile and other than his boys it was his prized possession, yet, like I have said he would do anything for his progeny. We headed to Tempe only to get hopelessly lost trying to find the venue of the play. When we realized our mistake we pulled into a side road u turned that got ready to make a left head back to the building we missed. Turning left a jeep filled with drunk frat boys careened into the Mazda and totaled it. We were later told that had the vehicle hit us a few inches further down we would have been more than likely killed. There were no cell phones back then so the police who had arrived called Doug’s number into the station who then called the house. Also, there was no Google so subsequently no maps. One of the officers told me to walk down the street to flag Pop down so he would be able to find us. Mind you we had just been through a traumatic event and Doug was bleeding, so I guess I got the chore by default.
When Pop saw me, he pulled over and asked, “what the hell are you doing?!?!? Get in the car, where is Doug?” I explained what happened as we drove the quarter mile down the road to the accident site. When we got there, he immediately went to Douglas with me in tow. He determined that we were both ok and did not need medical help. That’s when, well, things got a little weird.
Pop went to the police officer that I pointed out telling me to go up the road so he could find us. He walked towards him with a purpose, He began yelling at the cop saying, “why the hell would you send a kid who just got through an accident up the road?!? What is wrong with you? Has seen a paramedic? Jesus Christ! Why is my son just sitting on the side of the road by himself not being monitored, what the hell is going on?!?!?!”
Doug was so worried about his father’s reaction to him totaling the car that he could care little for personal injury, just his father respect. It turns out that his father could care less about a fancy carriage then the life of his son and his friend. He was angry that we were not being treated with kindness and respect because of our age. I was in awe of this level of protection and caring for someone other than my mother and Grandparents.
When it was time to replace the Mazda with a new car Pop bought a Cadillac, not a fancy sports car. Looking back now I wonder if he thought the safety of his children was more important than his need for a supped up sports car.
The Dinners and Other Stories
There are so many more stories that I could tell you, from the dinners I had with Pop and Doug’s two brothers making fun of each other and me. Oh, the dinners, Pop’s wife, Susan, always made a great meal, and we had the best of times ribbing each other and arguing over the dumbest things. There was always laughter and Doug saying, “No Pop you’re wrong.” There was one phrase that he adores more than anything in the world, “Fuck You,” then an enormous raspy belly laugh. Every single time one of the boys painted him into a corner that is exactly what he would say. With Jackie Gleason from the Honeymooners finger point! That word flew around the house almost every dinner.
Watching the 49ers destiny of the 80’s football era. Pop loved food it was almost a passion for him, whether it was cooking or just a quick meal. There was a Taco Bell five minutes from the house and nearly every Sunday at half time he would say, “Let’s got to Tico Taco! We’re running to the border!” It never failed to make Doug and I laugh. Besides we loved to run to the border with him, it was, to say the least, a smile.
Pop loved his baseball and if he had his way all three of the boys would be playing professional ball today. He has forgotten more about the game than most coaches could ever understand. I loved watching him catching for all three of the guys, all who were pitchers and all played on our High School team. One year, before Doug decided to play we were watching the oldest, Jeff pitch a home game Doug and sat opposite the dugout and trying to liven up the crowd proceeded to do a two man wave. Pop was in the bleachers staring at us. Another fan asked him who the hell we were. He only said, “Morons, but they are my morons.”
Pop loved having all of us at the house, and the group would often congregate there.
There was the time at our High School graduation when Pop Perry and Lauren, “Megs” Meggison couldn’t stop laughing at Jackson socks, they were purple, and, well, bright. It was supposed to be fashion. That is the way he was though Megs too. He loved life, and he loved me, I have always wondered if he held animosity towards Jackson because how I was treated.
He loved having the boys over to the house and even after graduation those of us who stuck around Phoenix would still come over to the house to see him. We threw a going away party for two of the gang, Tommy, and Jay who were heading to basic training for the Marine core. He demanded we have a proper send off for them. He bought really cheap beer and we couldn’t stop giving him shit for being so cheap. Of course, the subsequent FUCK YOU followed.
A few years later pop let me stay at his house in Zach, the youngest of the clan, old room after he left for college when my mother decided to move to Cleveland to be with her boyfriend. I was just figuring out things then, going to Phoenix College and working two jobs. Pop charged me $500 a month for room and board and did so for a reason. He wanted me to not just accept handouts but to learn to pay my way. He didn’t need the money really it was a life lesson and one that I have carried with me all my life.
I think I have told him I love him a thousand times but never knew how to tell him how important he was to me during my formative years where I desperately needed a father figure who actually cared about me. I had my Grandad sure, but he was miles away in Yuma and pop was here, and I could reach him anytime, daily, ready to listen and often dole out sage advice or just listen to my rantings.
I Fucking Hate Cancer
We die two deaths in this world; the day we shed our mortal coil and the day there is no one left to speak or name - unknownI spoke to him about a week ago to check in on him. He was slowly losing his fight with cancer, and it was hard to talk about it with him. He is an amazing man and this November, or shall I say MOVEMBER, I will be shaving my goat and leaving my mustache in my stand for the fight against cancer. I will be part of a team with fellow friends and men all over the country and will be asking for donations to fight this horrible disease. People all over the country will grow mustaches and women will paint fake mustaches on their fingers and put above their lips as a sign of solidarity to find a cure.
I wrote this too help him to remember all the times we laughed and talked as a Father would to his son, his fourth son. The world lost a great man last night September 19th, 2016. He fought a battle none of us, in the end, will ever win. Pop, go with God, and I will always remember the memories of our times together and the love we shared. #truestory #popperry #life